Adults With Autism To Receive Better Protection, Improved Services Under Assembly Bill

autismAdults with autism would be specifically covered by anti-discrimination laws under one of two new measures designed to assist people who have the disorder, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts said today. The second bill would permit adults with autism to voluntarily place their names on a new state registry that will help New Jersey improve its planning and delivery of services, said Roberts (D-Camden). The other would revise the state’s laws to specifically prohibit discriminatory acts against people with autism. Both would be introduced next week when the Assembly returns from a lengthy break, Roberts said.

Much of the focus on autism has dealt with children, Roberts said. But he believes there is a “growing need” to provide a better quality of life for adults who have the disorder.

“It will cost taxpayers severely if adults with autism do not get the services they need to live as independently as possible,” Roberts said.

The bills are recommendations from the Adults with Autism Task Force, which was created under a law sponsored by Roberts. The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee will likely review the legislation at its Monday session.

Roberts noted a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, based on research in 14 states, found one in every 150 children diagnosed with autism. New Jersey has the highest rate in the country, with one in 94.

Roberts said Autism Registry Law would provide information that would allow experts to better analyze contributing factors to the rising number of autism spectrum disorders in New Jersey and elsewhere.

Under the law, adults can voluntarily register themselves, or be listed by their health care and service providers.

The anti-discrimination law would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations against anyone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Roberts said the bills are among many shepherded into law to raise awareness about autism and encourage early diagnosis and early intervention.

The Legislature has passed bills that have made New Jersey the 15th state to require health insurers to cover treatments for autism; trained teachers in autism awareness; and improved the state’s system for detecting symptoms of autism in young children.

“We’ve taken several strong steps to improve the lives of those with autism and developmental disabilities, but our fight is constantly evolving and our work against these lifelong disabilities is never done,” Roberts said. Star Ledger

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